A story about a man who swims to work went viral. Here's what makes his commute possible.

Benjamin David lives in Munich, and he swims to work.

Every morning, David checks the speed and temperature of the water...

All GIFs via BBC Capital/Facebook.


...puts on his swim trunks and packs his dry bag with the clothes and gear he needs for the day...

...and swims 2,000 meters, or about 1.25 miles, down the Isar River to work.

Thanks to a great video from BBC Capital, David's story went viral last week. But lost in the surprising and delightful nature of his morning commute is what's making it possible: efforts in major cities to clean up polluted urban rivers and return them to swimmers.

Cities like Paris, New York, Boston, and London have all made an effort to return their rivers to swimmers and beachgoers.

Local governments are partnering with civic nonprofits to raise funds for cleanup, natural pools, and marketing efforts. Why focus on swimming? It's affordable, safe, and fun for residents of all ages, and public access to rivers and lakes is a great way to build community and inspire people to care about their waterways.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has made cleaning up the River Seine a priority and hopes to have open-water swimming events in the waterway for the 2024 Olympics. In July, she opened canal water pools in a section of the Bassin de la Villette canal in northern Paris. These clean swimming zones are sectioned off and filtered to ensure a safe dip.

Photos by Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images.

American cities are pushing for river pools too. For seven years, a nonprofit in New York City has been working on +POOL, a floating swimming pool in the shape of a plus sign that can filter impurities through its walls. They have a bevy of backers and great designs but are currently in a holding pattern with the city, waiting for a site to install it.

An artist's rendering of +POOL, the idea of am NYC nonprofit. Image via +POOL.

One city that's seeing the benefits of returning the river to swimmers is Portland, Oregon.

The city is split in half by the Willamette River, a thoroughfare still used to export grain and dry-dock ships. But despite Portland's eco-friendly persona, the river was long neglected and prone to sewage overflows. With the completion of the Big Pipe, a sewage infrastructure project, the Willamette has been remarkably clean and safe for swimming. Yet it was still hard to persuade residents to dive in.

Photo by Ian Sane/Flickr.

That's where local nonprofit group Human Access Project comes in. The group of volunteers pursues its mission of transforming Portland's relationship with the river by creating public spaces like access points and beaches, supporting education and conservation efforts, and, of course, jumping in for a dip. The HAP hosts the Big Float — a floating party in the river — an annual river swim with Mayor Ted Wheeler, and even has a swim team called the River Huggers. Yeah, seriously.

"For us, swimability is a platform for hope," says HAP Founder and Ringleader Willie Levenson. "Our hope is that if we can reconnect people with the river through their own self-interest, through something that will benefit them — being able to get into the water and swim — they will naturally care more about the outcomes of what's happening in the watershed. They'll naturally be more inclined to fight for this thing that they love and enjoy."

The River Huggers take to the water. Photo via Human Access Project, used with permission.

Are swimmable rivers and lakes not on your city's radar? There's still a lot you can do.

While most people don't have the time to found and organize their own nonprofit like Levenson, there are similar groups like the Waterkeepers or your local watershed council that are already doing this work. Donate your time or make a contribution to keep the good going.

You can also start using the body of water to swim, kayak, or relax. It's fun, affordable, and close to home. Check the water quality test results online before jumping in, and bring a friend or swim buddy. Let your local elected officials know you want safe access to your water and support candidates that make it a priority.

You may not use it to commute, like David, or create a float party with thousands of your closest friends, like Willie Levenson, but it's your community and your water, and you deserve a clean, safe place to enjoy it.

Beachgoers enjoy Portland's newest river access point, Poet's Beach. Photo via Human Access Project, used with permission.

Heroes

Some people apparently don't understand just how unbelievably good Serena Williams is on the tennis court.

Why they don't understand this is unclear. She holds more open era Grand Slam titles than any other tennis player, male or female. She's set Olympic records, ranking records, age records, prize money earnings records—the woman is a record-breaking machine. (Fun fact: Williams is the highest paid female athlete of all time, having earned $86 million in prize money during her career. The next highest is Maria Sharipova, with $38 million in prize money. If that's not total dominance, I don't know what is.)

Her list of tennis championships is a mile long. You don't even have to follow tennis to know that Serena Williams is a freaking powerhouse of a tennis player, not to mention one of the greatest athletes of all time.

And yet, there are dudes who believe they could take her on.

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Culture
Alie Ward

Your dinner plate shouldn't shame you for eating off of it. But that's exactly what a set being sold at Macy's did.

The retailer has since removed the dinnerware from their concept shop, Story, after facing social media backlash for the "toxic message" they were sending.

The plates, made by Pourtions, have circles on them to indicate what a proper portion should look like, along with "helpful — and hilarious — visual cues" to keep people from "overindulging."

There are serval different styles, with one version labeling the largest portion as "mom jeans," the medium portion as "favorite jeans," and the smallest portion as "skinny jeans."

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Well Being

The 2013 documentary "Blackfish" shined a light on the cruelty that orcas face in captivity and created a sea change in the public's perception of SeaWorld and other marine life parks.

This "Blackfish" backlash nearly deep-sixed SeaWorld and led Canada to pass a law that bans oceanariums from breeding whales and dolphins or holding them in captivity. Animals currently being held in Canada's marine parks are allowed to remain as well as those taken in for rehabilitation.

Podcaster and MMA announcer Joe Rogan saluted Canada's decision on a recent episode.

"First of all, what assholes are we that we have those goddman things in captivity? A big fucking shout out to Canada because Canada, mostly probably through the noise that my friend Phil Demers has created in trying to get MarineLand shut down, Canada has banned all dolphin and all whale captivity. It's amazing. I hope the United States does it well, I hope it goes worldwide," Rogan told his guest, economist and mathematician Eric Weinstein.

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Planet
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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